Lost “Big Things” in Indianapolis

Over the last few years, I’ve covered most of the city of Indianapolis, photographing all of the roadside art and "Big Things" with the help of my family, friends and totals strangers helping me spot their locations. Sadly, since I started photographing in 1999, Some of Indy’s "Big Things" have been lost to time, due to businesses closing or natural disasters. Here are my photographs in tribute to Indianapolis icons that are lost time.
Posthumous mention: I haven’t been able to locate photos of it, but there used to be a giant cow at Robert’s Dairy on 41st Street and Millersville Road. Some accounts place it at over 40 feet tall. It went away in the early eighties when the dairy closed.
I recently broke the "Big Things In Indianapolis" into three categories — a page of permanent fixtures, a page specifically for Inflated Big Things, and a page of "Big Things" that have disappeared.

Historic Big Things in Indy

A giant Santa made of styrofoam that used to stand in Union Station, and the two giant milk bottles of Polk’s Dairy, which used to be in downtown Indianapolis. Both of these Big Things are long gone, unfortunately, but their photos live on in the Indiana Historical Society archives.

Atlas Holding Up the World

at a Fitness Center on North Keystone Street. Sometime after I took my original photos in 2000, he got a great new paint job and was gold. Sadly, in late 2004, he blew over in the wind and was damaged, and then before he could be repaired, someone came along and decapitated him.

Mysterious Giant Tao Symbol on Delaware Street

I stumbled across this giant tao symbol in an empty double lot on Delaware Street downtown back in the late 90’s. The cool thing is that it can’t be seen from the street. It spans two empty lots and is about 80 feet across, but from the ground, you don’t really realize what it is unless you stand in the middle of it. Aerial photos of the city show that it was created sometime between 1965, when there were two houses on the lots, and 1976, which is the first time it shows up in photos. I went to take pictures of it in the fall of 2004, and it’s gone. It was paved over with a parking lot.

Giant Animals on Cars at Love’s Car Lot

There used to be a Love’s Car Lot on East Washington Street that rented cars with giant Chickens, Turkeys, Pigs, etc. on their roofs. The decorated cars are no longer at the Washington Street location, which seems to have new owners. I spotted two of the cars in a parking lot south of Castleton Mall, and later saw the turkey on a newly-painted chicken car around town, then saw the chicken advertising a different business. Haven’t had a chance to photograph either one. Please let me know if you know where these great cars are located.

Giant FAO Schwartz Bear

In Circle Center Mall, Downtown Indianapolis. This bear is gone now, since FAO Schwartz moved out of the mall.

World’s Largest Yo-Yo

Used to be located in the children’s museum store in Circle Center Mall. That store is closed – I assume the yo-yo is sill around somewhere, but I haven’t spotted it.

Giant Pussywillows

at a tanning Salon around 65th and College. The tanning salon is now gone (sometime in Spring 2005) and the pussy willows are, too. No idea whether they relocated.

Giant Pants and Shoes

Used to be on the Speice building at 75th and Keystone. These are gone now, and the building was remodeled to be a youth training center.

Big Foot

at the Bigfoot Gas station on west 38th. There were several at stations around town. This one is definitely gone, and I think all of them are.

  1. John Buchanan

    The big cow that once was at Robert’s dairy is alive and well at Crossroad Farms Dairy on Shortridge Road in Indianapolis. I was on the management team that purchased the cow and brought her to our plant just after Robert’s closed. She was a Guernsey, but since has been re-cast as a Holstein.

    • Hawthorn Mineart

      Thanks, John! I’ll get my butt out there to take a picture of it sometime this summer!

      • Donna

        My father started at Robert’s Dairy as a retail driver and then started driving a semi as a whole sale driver until he left the company in the 80’s shortly before they closed. I remember the cow very well. I remember my Dad getting up one morning and calling me telling me that he could not get away from that cow, and that it had followed him to him now home. He stated that getting up one morning and looking out his kitchen window he saw the cow that was now in it’s place at the Cross Roads Dairy. How ironic that he saw that cow everyday at work and then later everyday until his passing.

        • Kevin

          Hello. My Father also worked at Robet’s Dairy in the 70’s & 80’s as a retail driver, and, a semi driver going to Ohio.

  2. Barb

    Yes, that cow was interesting. My dad helped arrange for it to come to the Dairy and he saw it every day since it was right outside his 2nd story office window. There was much discussion about how the cow should be positioned at the front of the building….”heads or tails” facing the windows. Glad it is still an item of interest!

  3. Robert G'Sell

    Years ago there was a fitness center in Irvington Plaza on the eastside (called Nautilus?) and if I recall correctly there was a large Atlas-type figure on their roof. The building I believe is now a flea market. My father worked at the Kroger store in the plaza which is now a DAV thrift store.

    • David Bartle

      I remember that Atlas statue in Irvington Plaza as a small child in the early 60’s. It was next to, or attached to the bowling alley there where you say is a flea market now. That bowling alley, and that statue were among my first memories when I was 3 or 4 years old. My mom and aunt were in a bowling league there and my cousin and I went to the nursery while they bowled. We hated the nursery and we both “escaped” several times and found our moms. Wish I could find pics of all that.

  4. MH

    Wasn’t the fitness place on Keystone called Silhouette ? My mom had membership there in the 50’s or 60’s I think. They had an indoor pool and steam rooms and those machines with the belt that shakes your blubber. We lived by the Meadows apartments off from 38th Street. Went to school 1 and then Arlington.

  5. C J Smith

    The giant tao symbol was between the 2 homes that were The Davis Psychiatric Clinic(those homes & lot). Dr. Larry Davis installed the walkway to connect the two buildings. It was used by staff & patients. Dr. Larry Davis was killed in a plane crash in 2006.

  6. Kimberly Haines

    I worked in the Circle Centre Mall when FAO closed. Several of us at my job inquired about purchasing the FAO Bear, but he was disassembled and destroyed as he was copyrighted merchandise. Very sad.

  7. charles miller

    charles miller, i was a milkman from 1966 to 1970. at 19 years old it was a great job. great company! my route was carmel and westfield. remember the cow well.

  8. Susan Hunter Farris

    What about the giant cow that stood in front of Wheatley’s Market in Wanamaker for years. The big thing to do in the 70s and 80s was to take it and put it in somebody’s yard. Were is that cow now ?

    • David Bartle

      Susan…. yes, the cow. I’d like to see it again. My mom rented it once for my cousin’s 50th birthday party. Nice to see your name. Always had great memories of you from school.

  9. Sheila Reese

    Where is that cow now? I’d like to see it. My grandfather was a milkman for them for over 30 years. He probably worked there from late 1920’s until late 1950’s. I know he worked there until he was about 67. He was one of the last drivers to give up his horse and cart. He said he could add up his accounts in between stops because the horse knew his route and his horse would stop at each house.

    • John Buchanan

      the caw is alive and well in front of Crossroad Farms Dairy – 400 S. Shortridge, Indianapolis. She’s been re-painted as a Holstein, and often is decorated for a holiday.

  10. Cherie Owens

    My Great Grandmother Letta Sheek Tracy was an accountant for Polk Milk before I was born in 1948. Her parents took care of my Grandmother while she worked which was unusual back then. I am glad to find these picture of Polk Milk Cherie Owens Greenfield, IN


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